Stages of Change

do-or-do-not-there-is-no-14Going AIP (or Paleo) is a big change.

Despite what yoda might have to say, knowing about Stages of Change Theory can help get you there.

The Stages of Change

Precontemplation: Not intending to change. Uninterested, uninformed, unprepared to contemplate change, or all of the above, thank you kindly. Maybe change feels overwhelming or unnecessary. People who dwell here can be in denial. And people who are in denial sometimes react with hostility to suggestions that they change. Feeling hostile? It’s a clue.

Contemplation: Intending to change, but not immanently. Maybe procrastinating, maybe researching options.

Preparation: Intending to act. Plan in place. Getting ready.

Action: Just like in the movies. Taking action on change and intending to stick with those actions. Or scientifically speaking, “has attained a criterion that is sufficient for change”.

Maintenance: Sustained behaviour change strategies.

Termination: Change is complete. There is no chance of returning to old behaviours. Termination does not mean that you terminate the AIP & go back to donuts. It means that you will never eat donuts again and you don’t want to.

BullseyeHow To Begin

There are all kinds of ways to start an Autoimmune Protocol. If you are in Contemplation, you can use your time there effectively by doing research and deciding how you are going to start.

Terry Wahls and Sarah Ballantyne both recommend in their recent books that you decide whether you are going start gradually or go big. Just like getting into cold water or removing a particularly gnarly band-aid, you need to pick one.

Dr Wahls has designed the Wahls protocol in three stages so that people can start slow by just eliminating gluten and dairy and upping their veg; or be extreme by jumping right into her stage 3 Wahls Paleo Plus, a low-carb, high fat ketogenic version of the Wahl’s protocol. The only thing she is firm on: “Begin”.

The advantage of a phased-in approach is that you can always advance to the next level if you don’t get the results you are seeking. The advantage of starting with a more extreme version is that you will likely achieve healing faster, which will reinforce your change efforts. And you may be able to put some restricted foods back in over time.

Last fall I wrote a post about getting started with paleo that is applicable to the AIP. It includes instructions for doing a force field analysis, which will enable you to bring all your jedi powers to bear on your process of change.

Dr Ballantyne refers to recent research on habit change which suggests that changing a habit takes from 18 to 254 days, and 66 days on average.

I’d say, the bigger the change, the longer it takes.

Matthew and I had an interesting difference of opinion about this the other week, when he’d been on the AIP for 3 months and was really struggling with the restrictions.

He said: It’s different for you because you never crave anything.

To which I retorted: I don’t crave anything because I’ve been doing this for 2 years. Back when I was still mourning for my SAD-foods, you were still eating them!

The point being that psychological dependence on foods takes time to lift, but eventually it does. Somewhere between Matthew’s 3 months and my 2 years, Termination happens.

Obviously it helps if you are seeing positive results from your change. The beneficial effects of change often assist people to move from Action to Maintenance and then to Termination.

One aspect of change that is not officially included in the stages of change is Relapse. Relapse happens. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happened at our house a few weeks ago.

The important thing is about a relapse is not the relapse.

It’s what you do next. Go back to Precontemplation? Or Action? It might be helpful to decide ahead of time what your Relapse strategy will be. Plan not to need your relapse plan, but make one anyway.


Paleo survival strategy: early morning food prep

Everyone wants a piece of you, I know:

  • The zen individuals want you to get up 20 minutes early to mediate;
  • The get-the-classical-education-you-never-had people want you to get up before that to read Beowulf;
  • The fitness freaks want you to hit the gym at 5am;
  • The de-clutter nuts want 30 minutes of your mornings before anyone else is up to swizzle the bathroom and sparkle the sink;

And now I’m saying Hey! Wouldn’t you like to get up even earlier so you can prep a pot roast and make a cauli-pilaf before you greet the pandemonium that is your day?

And you are saying Um, no.

But wait, I have edge.

The edge is this: Paleo/AIP will give you the energy you need to accomplish all the meditating, Beowulf-reading, weight-lifting and toilet-swizzling you want to do in a day, in addition to your day-job and family life.

At least, it has in mine.

So start with the food prep. Even if it means skipping the gym & leaving the toilet to marinate for now. Seriously! I highly recommend getting the extra sleep and just starting with a cauliflower.

Just you & a cauliflower in the early light of dawn…

As your energy increases, you can whip through The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, prep your food, meditate, swizzle your toilet and get in a bike ride before work.

But you need the energy first.

Here’s what I did before work this morning:

Morning food prep

My early morning food prep

  • Baked some sockeye salmon;
  • Prepped a beef stew for the slow cooker (I browned lightly-salted stewing beef in batches, added 2 whole portobellos, sliced celery, cinnamon, & bone broth to the slow cooker, put it on low & left it all day);
  • Made a batch of coconut milk lattes for breakfast;
  • Made a batch of avocado pesto;
  • Roasted some cabbage;
  • Cut up celery, cucumber & broccoli for crudités;

I got all my food prep done before I had to roust my vegetarian teenager.


Chicken with pesto & lattes for breakfast!

Then I ate my breakfast, drank 3 green tea lattes, read my evaluation textbook, did the dishes & got work-ready.

We were both out the door by 7:40am.

Why an early morning cook-up instead of a late-night food prep?

3 reasons:

  1. Procrastination is a serious hazard for me in the evening
  2. I resent the food-prep less if I don’t have to spend my day anticipating it
  3. I prefer to have my evenings free to do whatever I want

Here’s my foodstuffs for the workday that followed:

  • Breakfast: Leftover roast chicken topped with avocado pesto, several gorgeous green tea coconut milk lattes;

    Workaday lunch

    Workaday lunch

  • Snack: Celery, cucumber & broccoli crudités with purple botija olives;
  • Lunch (at my desk, after hot-hot power flow yoga): Baked sockeye salmon mashed with avocado pesto in nori handrolls & a side of roast cabbage;
  • Supper: Beef stew with portobellos, sautéed zucchini with avocado pesto;

I am not affronted by avocado pesto three times a day!

The blog pie is 25% bigger than expected

Does a post have value if nobody reads it?

Does its value increase if more people like it?

If reality is socially constructed then does a blog post become more real the more engagement it gets?

I write because I am compelled to write.

Because I love to write.

Because it gets me totally high. And I am human, and humans love to alter their consciousness.

When I started this blog 2 months ago, it was almost spasmodic. I was sitting in a chair reading a novel and I leapt out of my chair, actually. I had to start a blog. I’d just heard about wordpress at a conference the day before.

I wrote my first post as soon as I figured out how to create a profile. I didn’t know how to attach a photo so it still has none.

My sister read that post. And a couple of my girlfriends. I think.

But I kept blogging and amazingly, one day I got a follower that I didn’t even know.

At first I was 95% intrinsically motivated to write. It got me so high to write and publish a post I’d be energetically vibrating. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep at night I was so animated.

A couple more people found my blog. I got some likes. Never too many but enough that I’d notice that they got me high too.

I was still 95% intrinsically motivated, but suddenly I found I was also 30% extrinsically motivated. I was checking my metrics. More than once a day. Waiting for the next follow. Living for the next like.

Which felt paradoxical.

Blog pie

How can I be intrinsically and extrinsically motivated at the same time?

Intrinsic motivation is purer, right? So, was my inspiration getting sullied by a sudden need for social approbation?

Ha! (I find it’s always good to bust out & laugh when I start dwelling on pretentious, self-referencing questions).

After my laugh, I realized maybe the blog pie is just bigger than I thought it was. Maybe the blog pie is variable in its dimensions.

Right now, for me, it’s running about 125%.

And more pie is better, right?


Chai Squash Pie (& how to have a thrilling! sexy! life by planning ahead)

Planning ahead: it’s my #1 paleo success strategy.

I know planning doesn’t sound thrilling or sexy, but it’s the secret to paleo triumph & to having the life you want.


  • I plan my meals 1-2 weeks in advance;
  • I don’t always religiously follow my plans, but they are always there;
  • A plan is only useful if it helps you meet your goals;

My paleo goals are also simple:

  1. To eat really well;
  2. To make food prep as effortless as possible so I can do other stuff;

Here I’ll use my favorite Chai Squash Pie to illustrate how I make planning work for me. So I don’t have to brood about my food and can have my thrilling life.

Now this is a deconstructed paleo pie. We’re not aiming to reconstruct SAD foods here. We’re moving on & getting happier every day. And this recipe really is easy as pie because it’s crust-free. And unsweetened.  If that makes you shudder, you haven’t been paleo long enough. It’s divine. It is everything there is to love about pumpkin pie, and you can make it with almost any squash. You can also make it with tinned pumpkin, so it’s a perfect pantry dish.

I plan a higher carb meal after I exercise. Chai Squash pie is perfect for that, so it gets into my menu plan at least once a week, more during squash season.

Squash season!

Squash season!

My pie is always ready before I go for run or to a hot power yoga class, either in the fridge or cooling in the oven. You can make it several days before you need it. Or make a big one and eat it over several days. To be frank, I love this pie and I will eat nothing else until it is gone, so I don’t bake up huge slabs of it. If I have a lot of squash and want a lot of pie, I’ll bake all the squash at once and then make the pie as I go.

Chai Squash Pie

  • 2 small or 1 medium baked squash (any dense squash like butternut, pie pumpkin, kuri or kabocha); or 2 tins of unsweetened pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • A capful of vanilla extract
  • A shake of salt
  • Your own house-chai blend (a combination of ground spices made of what you have & what you like): ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, allspice, a pinch of cloves, a modicum of black pepper

Remove squash skin with a sharp paring knife. Whirl all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Grease a baking dish with coconut oil & bake your pie for 40-45 minutes at 350.

Cool before eating for pie-like results. It’ll be more of a hot pudding, otherwise.

Serve as a side wherever you might have once had SAD pumpkin pie or cornbread. Or eat it gloriously all by itself.

Get fancy

Serve your Chai Squash Pie with Coconut Cream. Find the recipe for coconut cream here (scroll through my chanterelle picking expedition to find it). If you want to add a little more sweetness to this pie, for company maybe, toss a handful of dried apricots into the food processor when you are whirling.

The Plan Ahead Method:

  • Up to a few days in advance, bake the squash. Or skip this step and use tinned pumpkin. To bake a squash, cut it in halves or quarters with a large sharp knife, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and place cut side down on a baking dish. Bake at 350 until soft (30-40 minutes). Poke the flesh with a fork to determine doneness.
  • Up to a couple of days in advance, bake the pie. Like any pumpkin pie, this one wants to be chilled, so it’s happy sitting in the fridge waiting for you.
  • Don’t wait until you are hungry to make this pie! Plan the advance prep stages into your week so your pie is magically ready for you when you need it. Just as if you had a benevolent grandma who anticipates your every whim.

For example:

I want Chai Squash Pie waiting for me when I get back from yoga on Thursday evening and after my long run on Saturday morning. I also want bacon on Saturday morning, and I can have that, too.

  • Tuesday evening I’m home, so I bake 2 medium squash. Two different kinds, cause that’s more fun & flavorful. When baked, I put the squash into a container in the fridge.
  • Wednesday evening or before work Thursday morning, I put ½ the squash in the food processor with the eggs, salt, vanilla & spices. I whirl & bake. When baked, I pop the pie in the fridge until it’s needed. I repeat this step again on Saturday morning. If you are differently constructed than me and can keep a squash pie at the ready without lovingly eating it for every meal, bake up one big pie & save yourself a step.
  • Don’t let your food bully you. Sometimes I only have half an hour before I have to go, because maybe I got absorbed writing a blog post or something. I can whirl up this pie & put it in the oven at 375 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off & let the pie keep setting while the oven slowly cools & I go to yoga. When I get back: benevolent grandma strikes again!
  • While you are baking the squash, you might bake some roots for a hash, and likewise, while you have the food processor going you could whip up a batch of paleo pad thai sauce for Friday night’s supper & a salad dressing to have on hand, but I’ll cover that kind of paleo-skillfulness in another post.

Planning ahead: not always thrilling or sexy, but master it and the rest of your life can be!

Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 2)


I was at my yoga studio getting something sorted with my membership last week when one of the owners came up to welcome me and to ask how I was liking the studio so far.

To which I responded, I have been coming here for 3 years.

She was mortified. I know she prides herself on knowing the yogis who flock to her studio, but she didn’t even recognize me.

I’m a full-blown introvert who can pass for socially normal, but I prefer to remain unseen. Being more visible since I’ve been paleo has been tricky for me.

But in all honesty, it wasn’t just my stealth maneuvers that were at work with the studio owner. Though I’ve observed her hundreds of times as I’ve slipped through the studio, I don’t haunt her classes. Not because she’s not a great teacher, but because she once played Bob Marley for an entire 75 minutes, and I’ve been wary ever since. But that’s an aside.

For introverts who have not perfected the art of furtiveness, venturing into any social setting, including most fitness situations, is so stressful that they just don’t.

I started thinking about nerdiness and fitness when I read that introverts are less likely to exercise in Susan Cain’s book Quiet. Think about nerds. Renowned for their physical prowess? Not so much. Why is that?

My guess is it starts early.

Flashback to 1978

I didn’t hate gym class until grade 3 when we started to play team sports. I found baseball and soccer so traumatic that I would do almost anything to get out of gym. They were stressful not only because I’m an introvert whose brain partially shuts down if I’m forced onto a team, but also because I didn’t know the rules, and couldn’t seem to learn them what with my brain:

a)    mostly shut down;

b)    otherwise absorbed with devising strategies to avoid gym.

I had concluded, at age seven, that I wasn’t good at sports, and as everyone else concurred I started directing all my nerdy powers into avoiding physical activity.

But when I think back, I loved moving my body.

I went to a two-room school. It had been a one-room school only a year or two before, but the population increased when a bunch of hippies bought up all the cheap land thereabouts. With them came packs of feral hippie children, of which I was one. A portable was added beside the original schoolhouse to house us, and as the years went on and more hippie kids were generated, more portables arrived.

But in the seventies it was still a two-room school, and in the absence of adventure playgrounds, all the kids still played rip-roaring games together at recess. I loved these games, especially Horses.

The rules of Horses were simple: the girls were horses and the boys were horse catchers. When a horse got caught she was put in the corral until recess was over or she managed to escape. I only got caught once (& it was terrifying) but that was not because I was a fast runner. It was because I was a nerd. I would run around being a horse deep in the woods all by myself where the boys would almost never find me. That’s the kind of game an introvert likes. Solitary while still vaguely connected.

I still love moving my body. And I still abhor team sports. Running & yoga work for me. Even though yoga classes are full of people, I can ignore them. It is perfectly acceptable to practice mat-by-mat without any social interaction at all.

I’m still happy to be vaguely connected, but unseen.

Which is why I wasn’t offended that the studio owner didn’t recognize me. I was more like Yes! My invisibility spell has been working! But that is difficult to explain to an extrovert, who assumes that we all aspire to be noticed.

So I’m calling all Paleo Nerds! Let’s not unite, but stay separate and vaguely connected! We don’t have to reflexively avoid exercise because we avoid people!

It’s a rallying cry!

See Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 1) for a geeky fitness graph.


Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 1)

It’s not that introverts don’t like people, we just want them properly dispersed. And usually out of visual range. And some of us do not leave the house voluntarily. Which presents unique challenges for exercise.

I’m a Paleo Nerd: an INFJ.

INFJ is my Meyer’s Briggs type, and the ‘I’ is what makes me a nerd. ‘I’ stands for introvert, of course. Humans range on a spectrum of introversion & extroversion, which is the closest thing we have to a geek-o-meter.

But most nerds don’t need to do a personality test to know they are introverted.

And if you are introverted you need a customized approach to fitness.

Introverts generally exercise less than extroverts, and us ‘I’s know why: most fitness arrangements are cripplingly social. Guaranteed, the byline for your local gym is something like: Once you’ve decided you want to get into the best shape of your life (yes!) and be a part of a community of like-minded people… (Um, a community? Of like-minded people? You mean people who go grocery shopping at 2am to avoid contact with others? People who don’t answer their phone because that might provoke a social obligation that would ruin the rest of their week? And don’t have voicemail either? But do peer cautiously at their call log and are only slightly irritated that you tried to get in touch? Those kind of like-minded people?) Or these kind:


To address the fitness needs of introverts, I have developed a nerdy reference chart. Because when nerds think about exercise, logically they wonder hmmm, how would that look in graph form?


When starting to workout I recommend doing the form of exercise you hate the least. If you commit to paleo living, expect this hatred to abate or even disappear, but you need to start where you are right now. If you don’t yet know which type of exercise you loathe least, try plotting yourself on the paleo nerd fitness graph above, keeping in mind that your degree of introversion may not change, but your motivation probably will when you embrace paleo living.

If you are:

  1. Extremely introverted with low motivation: Your inspiration will increase once you are off the SAD-loop that is the Standard American Diet. Consider focusing on strict paleo eating rather than exercise until your motivation abounds. Or rock your nerd quotient (you may as well) and get a mini trampoline. Stick it in a high traffic area in your nerdery so you have to step on it to get the kitchen or back to the computer. Whenever you find yourself there, bounce.
  2. Extremely introverted with high motivation: Hide in your room & do the prison workout as described on Mark’s Daily Apple.
  3. Mildly to moderately introverted with low motivation: Find a class that is instructor-directed but where it is socially acceptable to ignore the people around you, like yoga (or Pilates). Sign up & make yourself go. Once there, all you have to do is follow directions, but you don’t feel obliged to chant or say Namaste.
  4. Moderately introverted with moderate motivation: Stream some fitness videos. Chart how much you hate each type until you determine the type you hate the least. Do that one.
  5. Moderately introverted with high motivation: Walk/run until you can run/run. Music creates an ambient shield of protection from evil sorcerers and other passers-by.
  6. Mildly introverted with high motivation: Get a gym membership. Find someone who knows their stuff to give you a tutorial on the machines. Ascertain the least busy times of day, and go then.

If you’re an extrovert, I can only imagine what kind of exercise you might prefer, but since all of American society and the entire southern rind of Canadian society is predicated on an extroverted ideal, you probably don’t need any advice from a Paleo Nerd like me.

But if I had to guess, it would be a team sport with lots of tackling (or hugging), in which everyone goes out for drinks afterwards. Or maybe cross fit.

If you’re an extrovert and are perplexed about how to relate to introverts, check out this classic infographic.

Stay tuned for Paleo Nerd Fitness part 2.

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